Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A GOOD EXAMPLE OF BAD HEADLINE WRITING

MOOSE:

The Cincinnati Enquirer does an awful job as the region's paper of record. It is all too quick to turn small downtown-area incidents into crime waves. This story is a good example. The headline, "Short Vine on edge after recent crimes," is simply unsupported by the objective facts listed in the article.

Here are the facts listed in the article:


  • "In fact, according to Cincinnati police, reported crimes in Corryville dropped from 173 in 2002 to 119 in 2006." That's a massive drop. Why isn't this the story?
  • "Police, some residents and many business owners say crime isn't bad there, noting the McDonald's fatal shooting was the first homicide in that area since 2003." Now I'm not a proponent of homicide, but if there were no murders in 2004, no murders in 2005, no murders in 2006, and one in 2007, I'm not sure that we should be ready to panic.
  • Half of the locals listed in the article say things like, "'I've worked here six years and never been scared,' says Nikki Smith, 24, an employee at The Cupboard, a smoke shop."

Meanwhile the suburbs have a three-man drug-fueled Heat-like murder-suicide and the Enquirer blows it off as "defying logic," "puzzling" and "bizarre." I say that you're nuts to live in the northern suburbs where yesterday's court docket included cases where rape occurs in public parks, men beat up and shoot their wives, and foster parents kill the children that they are hired to protect; come downtown where it's actually safe in spite of the Enquirer's smear campaign. (Note - all five cited stories were in today's on-line Enquirer. Guess which of the five headed the section.)

9 Comments:

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 10:50:00 AM, Anonymous Todd said...

Newspapers (and TV news) only care about money. People don't pick up the paper to read feel good stories anymore then they slow down on a highway to look at flowers. They slow down on roads to stare at accidents and read papers for crime. The newspapers poor headlines are an indictment of our society in general. As someone who lived in the "northern suburbs" I am definitely puzzled by the West Chester shooting. The three were recent Mason High grads and two were A/V geeks. They apparently had enough ammo for a small war.

 
At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 12:02:00 PM, Blogger michael budelsky said...

I also really like the sub-heading that reads "Fear Brings 'No Comment.'" The paragraph is NOT about how store owners did not want to comment because of intimidation by thugs and criminals. They didn't want their comments to be part of what they knew would be another Enquirer hatchet job on their area.

I also like how the article talks about loitering young men and teens (the real focus of the article and store owners' ire, but "crime" reads better), but notably fails to mention race. Every article like this should have a headline like "Timid White Suburbanites Terrorized by Black Inner-City Punks." This is just another example of Cincinnati's struggles with race and economic class issues. Articles like this perpetuate the stereotypes that, as I have said before, help to relegate the Nati' to second class city status.

 
At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 7:26:00 PM, Blogger michael budelsky said...

Todd, I agree that news outlets love a negative story, but what makes the Enquirer different is the way it reports negative stories differently depending on where are the stories come from. Moose is right. For some reason, there is effort to slant stories to push an agenda that the suburbs are safe, and the city is dangerous. Today's online edition just managed set the articles next to each other so nicely.

Moose, I suggest a letter to the editor. I bet you can get it published without much work. You can use most of what you wrote in your blog post.

 
At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 8:10:00 PM, Blogger Montyesq said...

Come on guys. You cannot ignore the truth. Crime IS less prevalent in the burbs. It is not a coincidence that publising and republising this fact results in greater circulation.

I'm not convinced the agenda extends beyond that.

And, that shooting was, in fact, bizarre in motivation.

 
At Wednesday, March 14, 2007 11:31:00 AM, Anonymous Todd said...

Monty, I don't think we are arguing that the suburbs aren't safer, I think we are arguing that the press is deliberately trying to widen the gap between what happens in the urban areas versus the surburban areas by emphasizing and deemphasizing various facts and figures within a given story. It begs the question of why this happens.

 
At Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:34:00 PM, Blogger Montyesq said...

I guess what I don't understand is the motive behind the "agenda" you suggest.

Is it reporter/editor bias?

Is it playing to the burbian's need to be reassured that they are safe? e.g. sheesh, glad I don't live THERE! or glad i'm better off than those poor schmucks

Or, are we just talking about headline writing - because that is what sells the grocer copies - that are unsupportable by the text. If that's it, I could go on and on about marketing trickery out there.

Being enquirer raised, maybe I need to be enlightened (or focused). Point me to a another city's paper that is an example of first class city reporting.

 
At Wednesday, March 14, 2007 10:08:00 PM, Anonymous Mike Bartish (Maybe) said...

I don't think it is a conscious agenda beyond typical media sensationalism. But I also believe that there is an underlying conservative slant that tends to focus on our city. It's never spoken but I also think that it's a form of institutionalized racism.

 
At Thursday, March 15, 2007 6:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess that I should chime in.

I think a lot of it is laziness. The writer has a pre-conceived idea of what the story is (crime downtown = crime wave; crime in West Chester = bizarre) in spite of the facts. The facts (from their own story) is that center city crime isn't really much of a problem.

Mind you, I'm not naive. But if you eliminate all of the OTR drug-fueled crime that happens between midnight and 4 AM, the center of the city is plainly safe, except for the occassional street beggar.

But that's not the Enquirer's "story". There's a pretty big disconnect. And it leads, as Bart (maybe) says, to a lazy institutional bias. Is that bias racial? It certianly has some characteristics of race.

-moose

 
At Monday, March 19, 2007 11:50:00 AM, Blogger Ewald said...

Nice analysis by Moose of a complete crap paper and he points out one of many reasons why I cancelled the paper.

I don't know why anyone would "trust" news from an entity whose sole function is to sell more ads and sell more papers. News in America seems completly broken.

In order for the enquirer to accomplish those twin goals they must figure out what sells and that is easy - fear. The paper sensationalizes your fears: black crime, arab terrorism, sexual predators, what is in your baby's formula, etc.

 

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